Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Quick and Easy?

My husband has gotten to the point where if I tell him that dinner will be ready in 30 minutes, he'll say something about it being in an hour.  He says this because it is what always happens.  The way I cook--there are no true "30 minute meals".  I rarely use canned soup as an ingredient or dry soup mix.  I don't use jar gravy or frozen foods.  I don't use sauces or salad dressings as the main ingredient in what I cook either.  If there's a sauce in a recipe, then it's to be made from scratch (most of the time)  This is definitely healthier for my family (less salt and preservatives), but boy does it take a lot more time!

Many of the "quick" cookbooks I see require ingredients like packaged onion soup or canned soup or teriyaki sauce or ranch dressing or other prepared foods.  So, I'm always on the lookout for a "quick" cookbook that really is from scratch.

Recently, I tried out a new one.  It's Don't Panic: Quick, Easy, and Delicious Meals for Your Family by Susie Martinez, Vanda Howell, and Bonnie Garcia.  Here's a super quick description of this cookbook:
- No pictures.
+ Simple directions--easy to read and understand
+ Mostly affordable ingredients (I hate when simple means every recipe is made with Phyllo Dough or pesto!)
There's only a few recipes in here that have more expensive ingredients like phyllo dough.
+ Great ingredient list for stocking your pantry (I keep everything they list except onion soup mix (all have MSG in them) and refried beans (I make my own)).
+ I agree with their basic tips (keep regular items on hand, shop the loss leaders, planning out meals...)

I tried several recipes from this cookbook.  The first I took to a church potluck.  It was the Cream Cheese Danish Recipe.  It does require crescent rolls, but it was still a great and quick brunch dish to take!  My dish came home with me empty.  We also tried the Orange Chicken recipe and were very pleased with it.  My mom commented that it was as good as going out for Chinese food.

I'm not much for cookbooks that advocate freezing dishes for use later.  That approach to quick cooking has never worked well for me because I'm horrible at remembering to thaw things out!  So, cookbooks like this one that try to make recipes simpler, but still taste great are good ones for me.

I did have a thought earlier that this cookbook is aimed at folks that would normally turn to the internet for a recipe for dinner (I found the same Cream Cheese Danish recipe online when I searched).  So, why buy or borrow a cookbook?

For me, I find it much easier to have the recipes I like in one place.  Last week, I was looking for my favorite chicken marsala recipe that I make.  I knew it was in my binders.  I couldn't find them.  I actually have a few places I put the loose recipes that I have.  Secretly, I think generations before me were smart when they fastidiously compiled their recipe boxes full of recipe cards!  I have a recipe accordian with pieces of paper of all sizes in it.  Then, I have a ziploc bag that contains the manuals for all the little cooking appliances we have and a few recipes.  I also have 2 large 3-4" binders full of recipes in sheet protectors.  A few years ago, I subscribed to Cooking Light.  I tore out the recipes that I wanted to keep and organized them by type of food.  How often do I look at them?  Once in a blue moon.  The point of all of this is that I have always shied away from recipes on the internet because I would have to organize them after I make them!  And as you can see, my recipe organization is already quite complicated!  I do much better with cookbooks.  I like to find cookbooks that have several recipes in it that I like.  I like to write all over my cookbooks and record what I change and whether or not my family likes the recipe.  For all the speed of the internet, the selection of recipes overwhelms me and it's much easier for me to navigate a cookbook.  

So, when it comes right down to it, I have realized that I love tangible books.  It may be irrational, but I simply do.  I enjoyed flipping through this cookbook and finding recipes my family would enjoy trying.  I know the orange chicken and danish are going to be regular additions to our family fare.  I liked this cookbook and I'll flip through it again when I'm planning our family menus.

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this cookbook for review from Revell Publishing.

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